Dookeran to launch new party Sept 10

The Couva meeting was said to be a last-ditch effort to heal divisions in the Opposition party, but again yesterday Dookeran failed to show.

However, the Executive last night did not refer Dookeran to the party’s Disciplinary Committee as was originally intended.

Instead, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said at the close of the meeting she has been mandated by the UNC Executive to meet with Dookeran tomorrow “to work out a clear and concrete agenda to achieve unity in the UNC.”

Tomorrow’s meeting is scheduled to be held at 11 am at the Opposition Leader’s office in Port- of-Spain.

The new party which Dookeran intends to launch is to be called the New National Congress (NNC). It will take the form of a Congress of the People rally in Aranjuez on September 10. In an immediate response to Dookeran’s decision to boycott yesterday’s meeting, Persad-Bissessar described Dookeran’s action as “unfortunate.”

In a letter dated August 23 to UNC general secretary Fazal Karim, Dookeran said the “invitation” offered to him by former UNC chairman Basdeo Panday at the party’s national assembly on August 19 at Rienzi Complex to attend yesterday’s national executive was publicly issued in the context of an “ultimatum” and against the “vitriolic and persistent attacks” against him by members of the executive.

Reiterating his support for all initiatives geared towards building a single party to successfully challenge the PNM in the next general elections, Dookeran reminded Karim that he had issued a public call for Persad-Bissessar to meet with him to discuss how to achieve this objective. “I again call on the Opposition Leader to work out with me a clear and concrete agenda that will seriously achieve the objective referred to above. Therefore I will not be able to attend today’s (yesterday’s) meeting but will be willing to convene such a meeting after my discussions with the Leader of the Opposition and will do so urgently,” he said.

Dookeran’s letter was seen as indicating that he would be the one to call an executive meeting after discussions with Persad-Bissessar.

However contacted en route to Rienzi Complex, Persad-Bissessar told Newsday that she had called Dookeran yesterday and left a message on his voice mail telling him that she would be at Rienzi from 4.30 pm (one hour ahead of the national executive meeting which starts at 5.30 pm) and she would have been happy to meet with him, there and then. She said it was unfortunate that Dookeran chose to absent himself and said the party would have more to say when the meeting was over.

Panday had warned that if Dookeran did not attend yesterday’s national executive meeting, the UNC’s disciplinary committee would have to act in accordance with the party’s constitution.

While Dookeran has been tight-lipped over whether he plans to leave the UNC and form his own party, he told a Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha youth assembly at the Vishnu Hindu Boys College, Caroni on August 19 that, “The electorate is torn between the impatience for a new movement emerging out of the UNC and in agony by those within the UNC for a single party to challenge the PNM.” Dookeran said he would convene a People’s Congress on September 10 “to outline charter for change and to seek involvement of the people in charting the direction of the politics of our nation.” The UNC leader said he would not leave party supporters in agony over the wranglings within the party and it was his intention “to build a credible, an electable party from the UNC to challenge the PNM.”

Sources yesterday said this meant that Dookeran was ready to cut ties with the UNC and will launch the NNC in Aranjuez.

Dookeran was unavailable for comment yesterday but his communications officer Nirad Tewarie, while not giving a firm denial, said he was not aware of any plans by the UNC leader to launch a new political party on September 10. Tewarie said he would have to check Dookeran’s voice mail for Persad-Bissessar’s message but said it would have been difficult for Dookeran to meet with Persad-Bissessar at the time and venue she suggested because of the hectic schedule of meetings that he had yesterday.

UNC deputy leader Jack Warner and acting party chairman Vasant Bharath yesterday said while they were hopeful that Dookeran would accept former chairman Basdeo Panday’s invitation to attend yesterday’s national executive meeting, they were prepared for the worst case scenario. Warner said he would be happy if the matter comes to a head. Warner, who has expressed doubt over Panday’s last-ditch efforts to reunite the UNC, said this entire matter has been protracted for far too long and it was now time “to let the chips fall where they may.”

Commenting yesterday on MP Dr Fuad Khan’s threat to resign from the marginal seat of Barataria/San Juan if the UNC does not unite, former PNM minister and MP for the area Kamaluddin Mohammed said if the UNC did not get its house in order and Khan resigned, it could lose the seat to the PNM.

Mohammed said Khan was “a brave fellow” for taking the decision that he has but did not think his (Khan’s) resignation threat alone would result in uniting the UNC. However, the former PNM government minister said the Opposition would be foolhardy to outrightly dismiss Khan’s threat as a bluff. He remained hopeful that the UNC could reunite at this 11th hour and said he would advise Khan about how he could better pursue unity in the party. Warner and Bharath both said a divided UNC can comfortably retain Barataria/San Juan in a by-election if Khan resigns as MP. Khan first won the marginal seat in the 1995 general election by registering 7,611 votes to then incumbent PNM MP (now Senate President) Dr Linda Baboolal’s 6,666 votes ( a margin of 945 votes). In the 2000 general elections, Khan retained the seat for the UNC with 9,098 votes over the PNM candidate’s 7,121 votes ( margin of 1,977 votes). In the 18-18 election deadlock of 2001, former attorney-general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj’s now defunct Team Unity pulled away 163 UNC votes but Khan was still able to win with 8,007 votes over 6,343 votes for the PNM’s Fiaz Ali. Khan won the seat again in the 2002 general elections with 13,111 votes while the PNM’s Fiaz Ali got 7,251 votes.

Warner described Khan as a good friend and someone he usually takes seriously but not on this occasion.

Describing politics as “a strange thing,” Warner said there would be no by-elections in Trinidad and Tobago with general elections constitutionally due next year and the actions of Khan and fellow Independent UNC MP for Pointe-a-Pierre Gillian Lucky were “passing strange” on the entire issue of unity.


"Dookeran to launch new party Sept 10"

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